Coastal Resiliency

6.9.2024 Montauk’s Coastal Resiliency & The Future of Our Town
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Since 2013 CCOM has been leading the effort to address the impact of climate change on our coastline and our community.

What Is Coastal Resiliency and Why Does It Matter?

“Coastal Resiliency” is defined as the ability to rebound quickly after a coastal storm and the ability to withstand shocks and stresses while maintaining essential functions. It also includes preventing or minimizing storm-related damages, ensuring public safety, protecting natural and recreational resources and maintaining a sustainable community.

While Nor’easters occur more frequently and can last multiple tide cycles, the most extreme coastal flooding is the result of hurricanes, and the recurrence interval of hurricane strikes in the vicinity of East Hampton is about 17 years. Major hurricane strikes have devastated Montauk in 1938, 1954 (Carol), 1960 (Donna), 1991 (Bob) and 2012 (Sandy).

  • During the next 30 years, the chance of experiencing a flood event with a magnitude similar to that of the Hurricane of ’38, at least once, is about 60%.
  • Global warming is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of hurricanes.
Photo of multiple houses broken and flooded, among piles of household detritus

Old Montauk Fishing Village After 1938 Hurricane

The rate of sea level rise is predicted to increase significantly in the future. NYS projects sea level rise of between 12-30 inches over the next 30 years (below). Although recent reports indicate sea level rise may be greater and occur more rapidly as a result of different factors including greenhouse gas emissions, sea and air temperature, glacial ice melt and oceanographic effects.

Montauk’S Vulnerability And Resiliency Recommendations

A recent study of Montauk’s vulnerability has determined five coastal areas at risk due to the threat of climate change, sea-level rise, and coastal erosion: Montauk Downtown, Fort Pond, Ditch Plains, Montauk Harbor, Culloden/Sound View Drive. Each differ in the type and extent of coastal risk and the imminence of significant future impact as outlined below. A mix of three specific strategies is required to address Montauk’s vulnerability and to plan for and achieve coastal resilience and adaptation. These are:

  • Managed Retreat: Managed withdrawal from coastal areas, most often accommodated by adaptive land use and managed relocation.
  • Accommodate: Allowing flood inundation to occur, but protecting infrastructure, property, and natural resources from damage through permanent and temporary measures implemented on an ongoing basis.
  • Protect: A range of interventions designed to hold back flooding from inundating developed areas and to prevent erosion and loss of land.

Montauk Downtown

Risk Level: HIGH

The Downtown Montauk beaches are experiencing significant long-term erosion, indicating a High to Severe erosion hazard. The beaches and dunes also experience storm and seasonal erosion, resulting in increased vulnerability to building structures and roadways. Storm-related erosion has been somewhat mitigated along approximately 3,200 of shoreline using a geobag-reinforced dune. However, the service life of this shore protection is less than 15 years. On-going maintenance due to storm damage is required to maintain shore protection. Portions of the natural dune are starting to experience dune erosion and recession. The impacts to beaches, including erosion rates and sand volumes, will increase with sea-level rise.

Resiliency Recommendations

  • Accommodate: Beach and dune management; Flood regulation (building code) to reduce building damage. Erosion Control District. Beach nourishment.
  • Retreat: Retreat from downtown oceanfront development and transform and extend dunes to create a robust primary dune system and upland coastal vegetated buffer.
  • Protect: Construction of an elevated roadway behind shoreline—primary dunes and vegetated buffer. Flood levee at Fort Pond preventing back-door flooding of this area.

Fort Pond

Risk Level: HIGH

The most significant coastal risk for the Fort Pond focus area is flooding, which inundates the sand strip, including, roads, rail, and structures developed on the sand strip. Flooding from Fort Pond Bay inundates Fort Pond and also causes “backdoor” flooding of Downtown Montauk. Efforts to improve coastal resiliency in the Fort Pond area can have a positive impact on the Downtown area by mitigating risk factors of “backdoor” flooding.

Resiliency Recommendations

  • Accommodate: Flood regulation to reduce building damage. Beach and dune management; Evacuation plan. Traffic routing during flooding.
  • Protect Fort Pond Levee flood protection project.

Ditch Plains

Risk Level: HIGH

The Ditch Plains shoreline, including beaches and bluffs, is experiencing significant long-term erosion, indicating a High to Severe erosion hazard. The beaches and dune also experience storm and seasonal erosion, resulting in loss of land and increased vulnerability to building structures and roadways. The presence of a coastal revetment at Montauk Shores Condominiums is likely worsening shoreline erosion along adjacent shorelines. Also, damage to and/or overtopping this revetment could impact the existing structures.

Resiliency Recommendations

  • Accommodate: Flood regulation to reduce building damage. Beach nourishment; Beach and dune management; Bluff restoration—manage adverse shoreline erosion impacts of the existing revetment. Erosion Control District.

Montauk Harbor


These waterfront businesses and buildings have a coastal flood risk. In addition to potential building damage, the focus area has unique risks associated with damage to the waterfront structures. The area includes Town-owned and private commercial docks and an island ferry landing.

Resiliency Recommendations

  • Accommodate: Town guidance for waterfront structures; Flood regulation to reduce building damage. Evacuation plan. Traffic routing during flooding.

Culloden / Sound View Drive


The observed shoreline erosion rates along Soundview Drive ranged from about 1 to 5 ft/yr. between 1983 and 2016 and would be categorized as Moderate to Severe. Predicted shoreline change indicates that with just 1 foot of sea-level rise, shoreline erosion without intervention could directly encroach on 32 structures. Future shore erosion and sea-level rise may result in increased bluff erosion, threatening all waterfront houses along Soundview Drive. The northwest shoreline of Culloden Point is experiencing erosion and the western portion (facing Fort Pond Bay) is stable. Between 1983 and 2016, shoreline erosion rates have been on the order of 1 to 2.5 ft/yr. and would be categorized as Moderate. Bluff erosion will result in the loss of conservation land, natural resources, and habitat.

Resiliency Recommendations

  • Accommodate: Soundview Drive: Beach nourishment, Beach and dune management, Erosion Control District. Culloden Point: Bluff restoration

Source: Coastal Assessment and Resiliency Plan (CARP) April 2022

Map of Montauk with key areas circled (described above)


CCOM is calling for the following 5 steps to be actioned immediately.

  1. Immediate Review of East Hampton Town’s Building and Zoning Flood Protection Codes
    • Implementing the New York State Community Risk and Resilience Act (CRRA) guidance within the Town, specifically: a) consideration of sea-level rise in the establishment of a Town-specific Design Flood Elevation (DFE); b) consideration of implications for existing building height zoning regulations; and c) regulation of Coastal AE zones as coastal high hazard areas
  2. Beach nourishment as a near-term, intermediate measure to reduce beach erosion and preserve dunes
    • Downtown Montauk FIMP (Fire Island to Montauk Point) beach nourishment of approximately 600,000 cubic yards of ocean dredged sand in 2022 followed by additional nourishment every four years of up to 400,000 cubic yards for a minimum of 15 years to be paid (in part by the Town) and to include beach nourishment at Ditch Plains.
  3. Implementation of Managed Retreat Planning
    • Committee of stakeholders must be formed to establish retreat adaptation plans for Montauk’s downtown. Solutions should be looked at under multiple lenses of environmental sustainability, safety, and economic impact and implemented through market-based tools such as Transfer Development Rights (TDR) programs, tax credits, and other incentives to encourage people to voluntarily move away from vulnerable areas and encourage the protection and conservation of natural shorelines.
  4. Ensure Municipal Funding Is Secured to Address Short and Long-Term Resiliency Goals
    • Identify and incorporate current and future resilience public works cost obligations
    • Identify specific resilience project costs (e.g., beach nourishment, roadway improvements, property buyouts)
    • Develop a comprehensive funding strategy
    • Use Town’s Community Preservation Fund to purchase property dedicated for Managed Retreat and conversion to conservation land and/or to meet a federal match. CPF land acquisition planning should be aligned with the Town’s coastal resilience and adaptation goals.
  5. Increase public coastal resiliency education and outreach
    • Facilitate through community meetings, development, and distribution of informational brochures and materials, issuance of surveys to gather feedback, direct mailings, FAQ handouts, and publicly accessible websites with relevant information.

Scale rates hurricane's force. The Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale is a rating system used to give an estimate of potential property damage and flooding expected along a coast from a hurricane landfall. Category 1 74-95 mph: Damage primarily to trees and unanchored mobile homes; some coastal flooding. Category 2 96-110 mph: Some damage to roofs, doors, windows, trees and shrubbery; extensive damage to power lines and poles. Category 3 111-130 mph: Some structural damage; large trees blown down; flooding near shoreline and possibly inland; mobile homes destroyed. Category 4 131-155 mph: Extensive damage to doors and windows; major damage to lower floors near shore; terrain may be flooded well inland. Category 5 More than 155 mph: Complete roof failure and some building failures; massive evacuation; flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all shoreline buildings. SOURCES: National Weather Service; National Hurricane Center